First Nations: The long shadow of assimilation

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Change the conversation, support today.


Number of Aboriginal children who were taken from their families and forced into residential schools as part of Canada’s assimilation policy from the 1870s onward. In 2008, the government apologized to Aboriginal peoples “for failing them so profoundly.” (Source and source

70 cents

Amount Aboriginal peoples earned for every dollar non-Aboriginals earned in 2006. At this rate, the income gap between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canadians won’t disappear for another 63 years, unless Canada adopts a new approach. (Source)

1 in 4

Number of children within First Nations families who live in poverty in Canada, much higher than the 1 in 10 children in non-Aboriginal families who live in poverty. (Source)


Number of recommendations to improve the lives of Canada's First Nations people within the landmark Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report, now 16 years old. (Source and source

$7.5 billion

Estimated annual cost of doing nothing to resolve First Nations employment and social problems in Canada, in 1996 alone. (Source


Number of Aboriginal youth suicides for every non-Aboriginal Canadian youth. Suicide rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, 11 times the national average. (Source)


Number of unresolved cases of missing and/or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. (Source)


Number of Aboriginal communities with a drinking water advisory, as of October 31, 2011. Of the more than 500,000 First Nations people who live on Canada’s reserves, thousands live without indoor plumbing. (Source)

Nearly half

Number of houses on Canadian reserves in need of major repair. The federal auditor general says Aboriginal housing is subject to overcrowding and requires more federal funding to keep up with the growing Aboriginal population. (Source and source

$169-$189 million

 Estimated federal government underfunding of capital expenditures on reserves annually. The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) says 40 new schools, at a cost of $12.5 million each, and 85,000 housing units would have to be built to meet current needs. (Source)


The federal omnibus bill that sparked a movement in Canada called Idle No More, which points to eight legislative bills that violate treaties. Amnesty International says changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Act, and the proposed Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act have profound implications for the rights of Indigenous peoples as set out in treaties, affirmed in the constitution, and protected by international human rights standards. (Source and source


Section of Canada's constitution that commits the Prime Minister and First Ministers to meet with Aboriginal peoples before changing federal responsibilities that affect First Nations. (Source)

December 11, 2012

The day Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike began. She says she is willing to die for her people “because the suffering is too much”. Her request: a commitment by the Prime Minister to meet with Canada’s First Nations chiefs. (Source)


Number of tweets attributed to the #IdleNoMore Twitter hashtag on December 23, 2013 alone. The movement has not only gone viral, support has spread beyond the Canadian border in a phenomenon considered “too big to track”. (Source and source


The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative's Trish Hennessy has long been a fan of Harper Magazine's one-page list of eye-popping statistics, Harper's Index. Instead of wishing for a Canadian version to magically appear, she's created her own index -- a monthly listing of numbers about Canada and its place in the world. Hennessy's Index -- A number is never just a number -- comes out on the first of each month in




Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.